Tchaikovsky / The Nutcracker – Ansermet (Reviewed in the ’90s)

Sonic Grade: B?

Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90s when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

Superb! New records just don’t sound any better! This is the complete Nutcracker Ballet as conducted by Ansermet for Decca, a record that sets a standard of performance and sound that is unlikely ever to be equaled, and almost certainly not to be surpassed.


A Must Own Classical Record (on Vintage Vinyl)

Ansermet breathes life into this ballet as only he can, and the Decca engineering team led by Kenneth Wilkinson do him proud.

It’s an Orchestral Spectacular that should have a place of honor in any audiophile’s collection.

Others that belong in that category can be found here.

Reviews and Commentaries for The Nutcracker

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

More Orchestral Music Conducted by Ernest Ansermet

 

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Seventies EMI Classical LPs and Vintage Tube Playback

What to listen for on this album? That’s easy:

The all-too-common ’70s EMI harshness and shrillness.

We could never understand why audiophiles revered EMI the way they did back in the ’70s. Harry Pearson loved many of their recordings, but I sure didn’t. 

To this day, some of the records on the TAS List seem to me better suited to the Stone Age Stereos of the ’70s than the modern systems of today.

I chalk it up — as I do most of the mistaken judgments audiophiles so often make about the sound of the records they play, my own judgments included — to five basic problem areas that create havoc when attempting to reproduce recorded music in the home:

  1. equipment shortcomings,
  2. poor setups,
  3. bad electricity,
  4. bad rooms, and
  5. poor record cleaning

If you had vintage tube equipment back in the ’70s such as McIntosh, Marantz, etc. — I myself had an Audio Research SP3-A1 and a D-75a, later a D-76a — the flaws heard on most copies of this record wouldn’t be nearly as offensive as they are to those of us playing them on the much more revealing systems that exist today.

Today’s modern systems, painstakingly set up and tweaked through trial and error, in heavily treated rooms, using only records that have been subjected to the most advanced cleaning technologies — these are what make it possible to know what your records really sound like. 

The more revealing, more accurate systems of today are in fact what make it possible for us to find Hot Stamper pressings.

We used to not do our job nearly as well, and we talk about it in our Live and Learn section.

You, of course, have the option of hearing our records any way you like. They should sound amazing on your system and in your room, and we stand behind that claim with a 100% Money Back Guarantee. The cleaning and evaluation of the sound has been done.  The record is correct. All you need to do is play it back properly.

Not everyone can do that, and we do get returns from time to time of records we are pretty sure would be hard to beat. When we hear that someone’s Mobile Fidelity pressings sound better to them, we know there is nothing we can do but give such a person his money back. See one through five above.

However

With each improvement you make in your system, the kinds of high quality pressings we sell — we call them Hot Stampers — will continue to reveal better and better sound in their grooves.

This is not true for the Modern Heavy Vinyl reissue. The better a system gets, the more the faults of those pressings come to light.  This typically sad story is one that is all too common with our customers.


FURTHER READING

More of the music of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

More on the Subject of Tubes in Audio

Basic Concepts and Realities Explained

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Ry Cooder – Paris, Texas

More Ry Cooder

  • The sound here is bigger and livelier than any other we played – above all it’s balanced, avoiding the tonality issues we heard on so many other pressings
  • 4 stars: “Suggestive of both the imagery of Wim Wenders’ movie Paris, Texas and the desert itself, Ry Cooder’s score is a peaceful, poetic journey into the soul of an acoustic guitar… a powerful and immensely evocative journey for those whose experience with the material is the album alone.”
  • If you’re a fan of Ry Cooder’s, this classic from 1985 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1985 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Shelly Manne and His Men / At The Blackhawk Vol. 1 – Live West Coast Jazz in 1960 Is Hard to Beat

More Shelly Manne

More Contemporary Label Jazz

  • This excellent Contemporary Yellow Label stereo pressing features Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • This is West Coast Jazz at its best, and if anyone can capture the realism of a live jazz club, it’s the engineers and producers at Contemporary
  • Each instrument here sounds right – the piano is weighty and percussive; the drums are punchy; and the brass has lovely leading edge transients
  • If you’re a fan of live jazz, this Contemporary from 1960 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1960 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Eagles / On The Border – A Country Rock Classic from 1974

More Eagles

More Country and Country Rock

  • An outstanding British SYL copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound for this criminally underrated California Country Rock Classic – exceptionally quiet vinyl for this album, because early UK pressings are almost impossible to find in audiophile playing condition
  • If you’ve never heard one of these early pressings, you have simply never heard this album sound the way it should
  • You Never Cry Like A Lover and The Best Of My Love (their first No. 1) offer Glyn Johns magically delicious DEMO DISC quality sound
  • We’re HUGE fans of the album here at Better Records; it’s some of the most sophisticated, well-crafted, heartfelt music these guys ever made, and that’s saying a lot coming from us – we’ve been big fans for decades
  • This killer album from 1974 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. On the Border is a good example of a record most audiophiles don’t know well but should.

Many of you have probably forgotten how good this album is (assuming you were ever familiar with it in the first place) probably because the typical domestic copy you would have played back in the day is fairly hard on the ears. Most pressings, even the British ones, barely hint at the kind of sound you’ll hear on this vintage UK pressing (the only kind we sell of course).

The LIFE and ENERGY of this pressing are going to knock you right out of your seat. Most copies leave you with a headache, but this one will have you begging to turn up the volume.

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this album. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings). (more…)

Letter of the Week – “I never thought I’d spend $600 on ‘it’s only a record.’ But it is worth every goosebump.”

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

  Hey Tom, 

You bastard! You did it again. GREAT pressing of AJA steely dan – promo album.

This is by far the best recording I’ve heard. I am a freak listener. Everything has to sound perfect, I hear everything.

I savor every note, every instrument, every vocal. The separation and presence of each sound is amazing.

Well done. I wish you continued success. I never thought I’d spend $600 and more on “it’s only a record”. But it is worth every goosebump.

Rocco

Rocco,

So glad you liked the record as much as we did. We heard 600 bucks worth of sound and so did you.

Goosebumps are indeed expensive, but you could spend $1,000 or $10,000 on Heavy Vinyl and not even get a single one, so, money well spent!

Thanks for your letter,

Tom

More Steely Dan

Reviews and Commentaries for Aja

More Letters


FURTHER READING

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Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant

More Arlo Guthrie


xxxxx

  • These rare, original Tri-Color Reprise pressings are practically impossible to find with surfaces this quiet, but we found this one, don’t ask me how
  • The 18 minute plus title song sounds wonderful here – natural, Tubey Magical, and tonally correct, as befits any top quality vintage pressing, especially one with Lee Herschberg handling the engineering duties
  • 4 stars: “… provide[s] an insight into his uniformly outstanding — yet astoundingly overlooked — early sides on Warner Bros.”

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Willie Nelson / Stardust – A Copy This Good Deserves to Be on the TAS List

More Willie Nelson

Reviews and Commentaries for Stardust

  • From the first few moments of the title track you’ll be blown away by the in-the-room immediacy of The Man himself
  • This copy is hi-res without sacrificing the Analog warmth that makes the recording so exceptional, especially for one from 1978
  • 5 stars: “Stardust showcases Nelson’s skills as a musician and his entire aesthetic — where there is nothing separating classic American musical forms, it can all be played together — perhaps better than any other album…”
  • If you’re a fan of The Great American Songbook, this is a killer recording from 1978 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1978 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Georgia On My Mind is a DEMO QUALITY track on this album. You aren’t going to believe all the ambience on this copy. The top end is gorgeous — sweet, delicate, and silky with loads of extension. The sound is extremely hi-res without sacrificing any of the warmth that makes this music so special.

Just listen to the rimshots and the bell in Georgia On My Mind — we guarantee you have NEVER heard those instruments sound so present, clear, and immediate.

Willie’s voice is natural and tonally correct, with all the breathy texture you could ever hope to hear. The acoustic guitars and Booker T.’s organ are perfection. (more…)

Dire Straits / Making Movies – Forget the Dubby Domestic Pressings

More Dire Straits

Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

  • Guaranteed to be a huge improvement over anything you’ve heard, this Brit is big, punchy, and full-bodied with excellent presence – Mark Knopfler’s leads really soar
  • Romeo and Juliet comes to life the way you want it to here, and the song Solid Rock lives up to its title
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Making Movies is helped by a new wave-tinged pop production, which actually helps Knopfler’s jazzy inclinations take hold … ranks among the band’s finest work.”

The music really comes together, especially if you’ve been playing a sub-generation domestic pressing, which is the only kind Warners made as far as we know. (The first album is the same way of course.) Here you will find richer mids, sweeter highs, more energy and some real punch down low. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – Get Closer

More Linda Ronstadt

More Women Who Rock

  • Superb sound on both sides of this Asylum pressing from 1982 with each earning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • Engineering prowess provided by Val Garay and George Massenburg, which means the sound is full-bodied, dynamic and lively, with plenty of bottom end punch
  • “Linda Ronstadt’s voice has never sounded better than it does on Get Closer… [her] ringing soprano vibrates with clarity and authority on the record’s best songs…” Rolling Stone, 4 Stars
  • If you’re a fan of the lovely Linda Ronstadt, looking especially fetching on the cover in her red dress, a killer copy of her album from 1982 might just need a home in your collection

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Humble Pie – What Other Live Rock Record Sounds This Good?

One of the best — if not THE best — rock concert albums we have ever heard. Can you imagine if Frampton Comes Alive sounded like this? If you want to hear some smokin’ Peter Frampton guitar work from the days when he was with the band, this album captures that sound better than any of their studio releases, and far better than FCA on even the best copies.

Grungy guitars that jump out of the speakers, prodigious amounts of punchy deep bass, dynamic vocals and drum work — the best pressings of Rockin’ The Fillmore have more firepower than any live recording we’ve ever heard.

We know about quite a few records that rock this hard. We seek them out, and we know how to play them.

Who knew?  We didn’t, of course, until not that many years ago (2014 maybe?). But we are in the business of finding these things out. We get paid by our customers to find them the best sounding pressings in the world. It’s our job and we take it very seriously.

Did any audiophile reviewers ever play the album and report on its amazing sound? Not that we are aware of.

Do they have the kind of playback systems — the big rooms, the big speakers, the freedom from compression and artificiality — that are required to get the most from a recording such as this one?

Doubtful. Unlikely in the extreme even.

They don’t know how good a record like this can sound because they aren’t able to play it the way it needs to be played.

And when was the last time you read a review of a record that hadn’t just been reissued on Heavy Vinyl?

There was a time when audiophile reviewers wrote about exceptionally good sounding vintage pressings they had come across. Harry Pearson comes immediately to mind, but there were many others following his lead. Now they it seems none of them can be bothered. More’s the pity.

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

And One We Also Just Added to Our Rock & Pop Top 100 List

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